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By Charles Mueller

The future of humanity is by design. There is no use debating this or wasting our breath figuring out if doing such a thing is moral or ethical. The basic facts are that tools like CRISPR have given us the ability to manipulate our genome in ways only limited by our imagination and people all over the world have already begun to tinker with life’s forbidden fruit. We are probably less than a year away from some do-it-yourself biologist engineering a breakthrough in their garage similar to how “drop-outs” like Gates, Allen, Jobs and Wozniak helped engineer the impossible under the radar. Hopefully this will be a great surprise, like Microsoft and Apple were, and not a terrible mistake that sends us down a path where we do everything we can to prevent such manipulation of the DNA of life.

There are two realities of human existence. The first is that if humanity hopes to survive they will have to eventually get off this planet before the Sun eats Earth or some other existential threat destroys it. The second is that humanity will eventually have to evolve beyond its fragile biology. Regardless if we choose to suppress this reality today, eventually we will have to take a more active role in how our biology is put together if we truly want to survive. The earlier we start obtaining the experiences, the knowledge and the tools to do this, the sooner we will have assurance that humanity will live on.

The future of humanity is by design and I can think of no better time to start that journey than now.

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

As we move to a society with decentralized manufacturing driven by technology like 3D printing, shouldn’t we also be looking towards the other side of the equation? Right now, responsible Americans with access to the correct resources have limited options when dealing with materials that no longer are needed or serve their function (also known as trash). We can throw these items into the dumpster, we can recycle them if we have services nearby to do so, we can compost some materials in our backyard, or we can find someone else that wants it, such as Goodwill or Freecycle. However, why do we do this? Are those not the same atoms that we need to create our next iPhone or dinner plate? What if our society had another option, one that could prevent many items from ending up buried underground awaiting degradation for centuries? Just like we have decided to put effort, money, and research into developing decentralized manufacturing, we should be putting the same sorts of resources into decentralized recycling.

By Charles Mueller

Winning hearts and minds is how you lead a country, it is key to winning wars, and it is what good governance depends on in a rational society. If you do not have the hearts and minds of the people, then you cannot lead them or protect them. People’s hearts and minds are won by giving them something to believe in, giving them something to trust. When people believe that you will help create the reality they hope to see, they give their hearts and minds to you. This is something all people who want power understand because power is controlling the hearts and minds of the people. Today, the hearts and minds of the rational people around the world are being controlled by an irrational idea, that trepidation is normal, that terrorism is acceptable, that we are not free to live without fear. That fear was perpetuated earlier this week when Daesh carried out a series of cowardly attacks on the innocent people in the capital of Belgium.

The hearts of people are won by gaining their trust, by capturing their loyalty. Terrorists groups like Daesh are winning the hearts of rational people, people like the teenager Maysa from Belgium who drank the Daesh kool-aid. The heart is not always a rational thing, it is fueled by emotion and responds most greatly to fear. We are losing the hearts of the rational people of the world somehow. The heart is most susceptible to change when it is living in fear. Ironically, by creating an unstable world the terrorists gain the hearts of the rational people.

The minds of people are sometimes much harder to win. The more educated, the more skeptical, the more logical a mind, the harder it is to win it over with cheap tricks. Maysa’s rational mind is the only reason she is not a terrorist fighting with the Daesh today. They might have tricked her heart, but they could not trick her mind. This is the power of rational thought, the power of science. When we understand our world better, in a more scientific way, we can control our hearts and put our loyalty and trust in places that are truly safe. This is why democracy works; because rational people invest their hearts and their minds in leaders who are rational and logical too.

Our rational leaders are not capturing the hearts and minds of the people anymore. The terrorists have put fear in our hearts and minds and they are beginning to turn us into irrational, illogical people. If we become that, we’ve lost the world we have spilt so much blood, sweat and tears over trying to create; a world of free thought, of opportunity, of freedom and justice for all. Trust and loyalty are inspired by action. Rational people also require that action be logical. Every war, be it WWII or the most recent War on Terror, is fought over the hearts and minds of people. I hate to think that right now we are losing the war for the hearts and minds of the world.

By Charles Mueller

What will humans be in 2020?

If you had asked me that question in 2000, I would have been 16 years old and told you that humans would still be human, but they would have really cool technology (think Jetson’s). Maybe we would be smarter, but that would have been due to the fact we had experienced more and learned more. We wouldn’t be better because we would have learned how to change the essence of our humanity, our DNA. I would never have thought that one day we could design ourselves like we design cars, computers and our art.

Many of our leaders in the S&T world who are following the advancements in genetic engineering technologies are convinced a world where we can design ourselves to love like a dog, to see like an eagle, or to have the memory of a Clark Nutcracker bird (Google it), are still many years away. The same kinds of thing were said in the computer industry before people like Gates, Allen, Jobs and Wozniak decided to do what the experts said was decades away in their own garage. The world of garage S&T (genetic engineering) is finally possible and do-it-yourself biology is going to start to make what was evolutionary impossible, possible. It is going to help create the breakthroughs that drive this revolution.

After spending the last decade studying everything I could get my hands on about how life functions and evolves, as well as following the development of tools that allow us to manipulate it at the atomic scale, I honestly think humans in 2020 will be on a trajectory different than the humans of today. Humans of 2020 will be the first down a path to be whatever the humans of 2020 want to be. Their children will be optimized and their own genomes modified in an attempt to make their existence better. They will be the first humans by design, not evolution.

By Paul Syers

Hey Mom.

Sure, I can talk about computers with you for a bit, why do you ask?

Stuff on the news?

Oh right. Yeah, everyone’s talking about machines that can think.

No they’re not going to take over, mom. It’ll be ok.

Because, we can make the computers think however we want.

That’s where a lot of the news is getting it wrong. We aren’t trying to make computers think like us — I mean some others are, but not us. We’re trying to make them think as well as us, on the same level. That’s different.

If they don’t HAVE to think like us, then they don’t have to have all the flaws people have, like hatred, jealousy, and other things.

Ok, let me try to give you an example. It’s like with cars. There are cars that run on gas, but there are also electric cars that are starting to become popular, right? There are other types of cars too, I even read about this crazy car that just runs on compressed air. These cars all do the same thing, they move wheels to transport us places, but the ways they do it are totally different. So, worrying about machines taking over is like worrying that electric cars will have all the problems inherent with using gasoline. The things you have to worry about with electric cars aren’t necessarily better or worse than the things you have to worry about with gas powered cars, they’re different.

No, I’m not saying they won’t have ANY problems, the some problems might be similar, others might be totally new. All I’m saying is that we’re not just trying to recreate HUMAN intelligence; we’re trying to create ANY kind of intelligence. The slate is blank! Sure it might turn out that the way our species thinks is the only way something can think, but we don’t know that for sure.

I think it would be pretty cool to try and find out. We gotta experiment before we know for sure one way or the other. And even if we fail, we are already learning some really cool stuff along the way.

Well that’s fine, you don’t have to get one when they come out.

Oh, some people say your retirement community is going to get some?

Yeah you say that now, but don’t be so sure. It’s not about what they’re made of, it’s about how they think, what they’re capable of.

Remember your old neighbor who immigrated from the other side of the world? Shortly after she moved in, you said that she was odd, but then you got to know her and learned about her family and culture. A couple years later, you told me that your relationship with her helped you see a new way of looking at things. Some new foods and new ways of doing things that you never would have thought of, but you now love. And that’s just differences in thinking that came about from different cultures. Just think of the kinds of crazy, cool things that intelligent machines might be able to think up, if they don’t use the same thought processes or the same combinations of emotions as us.

Yeah, I don’t know why everyone’s saying we should be scared. I think they’re all assuming that everyone -- every THING -- has to think like them. Options are never as limited as we initially think.